William (“Billy”) Lee

Portrait of Washington and Billy Lee by John Trumbull, 1780

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QUICK FACTS
BORN:
c. 1750
  DIED:
1828 at Mount Vernon, Virginia
Buried in the slave burial ground at Mount Vernon.

  • During the summer of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, with Washington presiding, Billy Lee stood behind his master’s chair and tended to his personal needs.
Portrait to come. See entry in Wikipedia. George Washington's long-time valet, William Lee, suffered two serious accidents in the 1780s which dislocated the knee caps of both legs, resulting in permanent disability. Because he could no longer perform his regular duties, Lee became the plantation's shoemaker instead.

 

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Property in land and property in slaves were the engines that drove Virginia society from its earliest days, giving Jefferson and those in his class wealth, independence, and liberty — their sense of identity. It was the dividing line between those who could participate in republican society by voting and those who could not, between those who were respectable and those who were not.

Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf
"Most Blessed of the Patriarchs" (2016)